Will Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey Really Leave Grey's Anatomy?

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Patrick Dempsey recently said that the upcoming eighth season of Grey's Anatomy is likely going to be his last. But is there any chance he could be back beyond that?

He didn't sound like it when he said that leaving would be “bittersweet because it’s been great and a great part of my life, but I can’t see me doing it anymore.”

Still, a rep for the actor backtracked a bit late yesterday.

"He was referring to the fact that his contract is up at the end of next season and we have no idea what the future holds," Dempsey's rep tells E! News.

In the Bed

So while there's still the possibility that Dempsey will hang up his stethoscope in 2012, especially if Ellen Pompeo packs it in, nothing is set in stone yet.

"No one has asked us to come back after season eight, so I couldn't presume that I'm coming back... if I haven't been invited," Pompeo said last week.

The long and short of it is that the original cast is only under contract through May 2012. Beyond that, a new deal must be offered - and agreed to.

The cast members would be free to go their separate ways summber, and having spent seven years on (and banked millions from) Grey's, they may do so.

The show certainly has a lot of characters at this stage, but are Derek and Meredith (and Cristina, among others) crucially central to Grey's Anatomy?

Put another way, would the show lose viewers without them? Or would newer stars be able to step in and carry the baton for many seasons to come?

Leave a comment and discuss below ...

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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Grey's Anatomy Quotes

MEREDITH: "You don't get to call me a whore. When I met you, I thought I had found the person that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I was done! All the boys and all the bars and all the obvious daddy issues, who cares? I was done. You left me. You chose Addison. I'm all glued back together now. I make no apologies for how I chose to repair what you broke. You don't get to call me a whore."
DEREK: "This thing with us is finished. It's over."
MEREDITH: "Finally."
DEREK: "Yeah, it's done."
MEREDITH: "It is done."

CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club."
GEORGE: "I... I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."